The editor of the Times Literary Supplement, Stig Abell, recently remarked: “I'm just dreading . . . a great British novelist—Ian McEwan springs ineluctably to mind—doing his lockdown novel where three families across the country, each experiencing lockdown differently, learn something about the human condition . . . a sort of state-of-the-nation novel” (The TLS Podcast ). Abell's interviewee, the novelist Will Eaves, conceded that “there are obviously people who like to write very close to the grain of events and to do it . . . very consciously” (TLS ). The coronavirus crisis has prompted many readers to turn to literary texts for insights, with Defoe's A Journal of a Plague Year and Camus's The Plague flying off the shelves (TLS ). Abell and Eaves's comments also refer to the peculiarly overt—you might even say artless—ways in which recent novelists have recorded “the grain of...

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